ISTANBUL - A world-renowned concert pianist was given a suspended jail sentence in Turkey on Monday for insulting religious values on Twitter, a case which has become a cause celebre for Turks alarmed about creeping Islamic conservatism.
Fazil Say, also a leading composer, went on trial in October for blasphemy - a crime that can carry an 18-month sentence - for a series of tweets including one citing a thousand-year-old poem.
That message, in April last year, retweeted a verse in which 11th-century Persian poet Omar Khayyam mocks pious hypocrisy. It is in the form of questions to believers: "You say rivers of wine flow in heaven, is heaven a tavern to you? You say two houris await each believer there, is heaven a brothel to you?"
In another tweet, Say poked fun at a muezzin, someone who makes the Muslim call to prayer. "The muezzin finished the evening prayers in 22 seconds ... Why are you in such hurry? A lover? A raki table?" he asked, referring to the aniseed-flavoured spirit popular in Turkey.
The series of more than half a dozen tweets led prosecutors to accuse the 43-year old pianist of "explicitly insulting religious values".
An Istanbul court gave him a 10-month prison sentence but suspended it by five years on condition that he does not commit the same crime again in that period.